Aerospace Engineering (EAS)
The Discipline and the Major
Aerospace engineering provides the basis for design, construction and performance of air and space vehicles. The unforgiving environment in which they operate demands the highest engineering standards and state-of-the-art materials, analysis and design tools. The major has two tracks: Aeronautics and Astronautics. Aeronautics pertains to flying craft (manned and unmanned, fixed-wing and rotary-wing) that remain within the Earth's atmosphere. Astronautics pertains to flying craft (manned and unmanned) that operate outside of Earth's atmosphere, as well as the launch vehicles that get them into space. Two courses in 3/C year introduce students to the fundamentals of both tracks. Students then choose one of these tracks and take courses that cover a broad range of engineering fundamentals such as aerodynamics, orbital mechanics, space environment, propulsion, structural design, stability and control, vehicle design and systems integration.
Both tracks are supported by modern laboratory facilities. Students conduct experiments in research-quality wind tunnels that produce airflow speeds ranging from subsonic to supersonic. A unique rotor lab is used to study helicopter rotors and propellers. Propulsion systems are studied by operating reciprocal and gas turbine engines. Flight performance, stability and control principles are taught in the classroom using flight simulators and are demonstrated in flight with the department’s twin engine aircraft. The department also operates a satellite ground station from which it monitors and communicates with the International Space Station and other satellites in orbit. A satellite environmental testing laboratory supports thermal, thermal-vacuum, and vibration tests for student-built small satellites.
In 1/C year, aerospace engineering students undertake capstone projects that involve the design, construction and operation of an aircraft or a spacecraft. Recent aeronautics projects have involved remotely piloted aircraft designed to carry out a variety of military missions. Astronautics projects have involved small satellites and payloads launched into Earth orbit to test concepts for future space exploration. Work on these capstone projects often entails collaboration with engineers at the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA, or other agencies. Other design projects have involved rotorcraft and rockets.
A variety of summer internships with corporations such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin and government agencies such as NASA, SPAWAR, NRO, NRL, and NAVAIR have majors working with aerospace engineers and test pilots on the development and operation of air and space vehicles. Naval Academy aerospace engineering majors have found success in all service assignments. Aerospace engineering graduates may enter U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, Navy Space Cadre, or work in program offices improving and testing naval aviation platforms and missiles.
Considerations for those who might be interested in this major
Aerospace engineering is challenging but rewarding work. Successful students appreciate the complexities involved in air and space vehicle design and recognize the necessity for critical thinking. They have an appreciation of how mathematics and computers are used to solve real-world problems. Teamwork is emphasized throughout the curriculum. Students who enjoy the major find fulfillment in solving difficult problems. Aerospace majors are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of themselves and the operational environment they will join following graduation. They also recognize the importance of aerospace engineering knowledge, methods, and technologies in many other industries such as automotive, wind power, and solar power.